Let August 15, 2022 be forever known as The Aaron Hicks Game That Absolutely Nobody Asked For.
Led by the ineptitude of their center fielder, the Yankees’ offense continued their precipitous plunge into the abyss, falling to a horrid 8 runs scored in their last 59 innings (and 3 in their last 34). Meanwhile, new bullpen arm Lou Trivino had a nuclear meltdown in the ninth to put this one truly out of reach, 4-0, as the Yankees got shut out in back-to-back contests for the first time in six years.
From the get-go, there was a clear strategy by both sides to attack pitches early in the count. Gerrit Cole converted two outs on three pitches and needed only seven to complete the inning. Gleyber Torres justified his placement batting leadoff with a first-pitch single, but was erased on a first-pitch GIDP from Aaron Judge. Anthony Rizzo didn’t want to be left out, smacking a first-pitch double to right, though a Josh Donaldson strikeout left him stranded, giving Rays opener Jalen Beeks a six-pitch first.
Cole was on pace for another quick inning, again needing just three pitches to record the first two outs. However, a seven-pitch at-bat by Ji-Man Choi ended in a soft grounder that Isiah Kiner-Falefa booted, extending the inning. Cole found his groove after a walk issued to Taylor Walls, blowing away Jose Siri on a 98 mph fastball to leave the pair stranded.
In the bottom of the second, the Yankees put a pair on with two outs thanks to a single from Jose Trevino and a Kiner-Falefa HBP, but Hicks struck out in what would be the first of many back-breaking blunders from the Yankees center fielder. The next came the following inning when he got spun around on a David Peralta deep fly ball, leading to a triple. The words don’t do it justice:
Peralta would come around to score the game’s first run on an Isaac Paredes single.
We didn’t have to wait long for the third Hicks head-slapping moment. The punchless Bombers actually loaded the bases on a Miguel Andújar single, an Andrew Benintendi bunt and reach on error, and an IKF single. Up stepped Hicks to swing bunt into an inning-ending double play. It was his MLB-leading fourth GIDP with the bases loaded this season.
Cole would end up giving the Yankees six solid innings, and you can’t even blame him for the one run given up. This was easily the best changeup command we’ve seen from him this year as he used it to good effect against the Rays lefties. He also had the slider and knucklecurve locked in, inducing a 40 percent whiff rate on each of the breakers. Unfortunately, the offense did Cole no favors, making it 13 innings across this start and last allowing one run while receiving zero runs of support. His final line: six innings, five hits, one run, two walks, and six strikeouts on 104 pitches.
Jonathan Loáisiga and Wandy Peralta combined for two perfect innings of relief in the seventh and eighth, with the former tallying back-to-back strikeouts on the slider and changeup to end the seventh. Alas, the efforts of the pitching staff (with one notable exception) would be wasted by the languishing bats. They didn’t manage a hit in the fifth, sixth, or seventh innings, and Torres’ second single of the day — this time to lead off the eighth — was nullified by Judge’s second double-play ball.
Boone perhaps left Peralta in a bit too long, as he walked Paredes and Taylor Walls before being pulled for Trivino. Things quickly unraveled from there. He gave up a single to Siri to make it 2-0 Rays, and followed by hitting Francisco Mejía on the foot. The righty reliever put the final nail in his team’s coffin allowing a two-run single to Yandy Díaz to place the Yankees in an inextricable 4-0 hole. It’s the first time the Yankees have been shut out in back-to-back games since September 22-24, 2016, when they actually went three games in a row without scoring.
Tomorrow sees Nestor Cortes take on Jeffrey Springs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, so be sure to join us in the game thread to see if the lineup can actually score a damn run this time.